Spotting A Phony


By Cynthia M Piccolo

When you work in recruitment, you need a discerning eye to detect applicants who aren't being honest. Over the years, we've seen several telltale signs of trickery involving written reference letters, and we want to share these signs with those new to the field of recruitment. So here are some ways to tell that the written references that an applicant submits may, in fact, be fraudulent:

  • You receive three letters, using the same font style and the same font size, saying the same thing, and signed by three different people who use the same pen and have very similar signatures.
  • Similarly, you receive different letters from supposedly different individuals, each of which has the same word spelled incorrectly.
  • The person writing the reference cannot spell her/his own name correctly.
  • The "letterhead" contains spelling errors.
  • The applicant asks you not to call the person who "provided" the reference.

    And here are some ways that deceit may be discovered if a recruiter calls the person who "provided" the reference:

  • The person named as writer of the reference says, "What reference letter for Jane Doe?"
  • The person named as writer of the reference says, "Who's John Doe?"
  • You call the number given for Facility X, and the number is out of service. You call Information to get the current number, and find there's no Facility X, or facility similar to Facility X in the community.
  • You call Facility X, and ask to speak to Nurse Manager Mary Smith, and you discover that there has never been any such person employed at Facility X.

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